ADHD and your Physical Appearance

At Untapped Brilliance, I am a strong believer in  the importance of looking after your physical health to help your ADHD symptoms. An ADHD ffashion-1868131_640riendly diet, exercise, taking omega 3 supplements and drinking water are some of the key components. When those things have become part of your life, you can turn your attention to your physical appearance.

A first impression is created in approximately three seconds. One… two… three… impression created! In that tiny amount of time your appearance, body language and mannerisms are all pieced together to form that impression. Aft
er that it can take hundreds of hours for that impression to be changed. With odds like these, it’s important that that first impression is a good one.

Now you might be thinking, “But that is so shallow.” It might seem that way, but you do it too when you meet a new person. It’s one of our survival strategies that allows us to function effectively in the world

Impressions are being created all the time – at work, socially and romantically. They help you get a job and the salary you want. They help you get respect with your peers and with strangers. They help you to get a first date and a second one.

When you are living with ADHD it is easy to focus on the logistical details, such as arriving on time and remembering all the important items for a meeting. It can be easy to think, ‘No one will be looking at me,’ and grab the nearest shirt from the  pile of clothes  by your bed. However, looks and logistics are important.

How you look not only affects how other people view you, it also affects how you feel about yourself,which  is arguably the most important thing of all.

What we look like on the outside can affect our moods, productivity and general well-being.

One of my friends has had bouts of clinical depression throughout his life. During one particularly dark time, he decided to get his hair cut. It had reached his shoulders, and he would go for days without washing it. After getting a short back and sides from his local barber he made a personal commitment to wash his hair every day. He believes it was a catalyst that helped lift his depression. He still washes his hair every day, even when he doesn’t feel like it , and says this habit is  just as important to his well-being as the medical care he gets from his doctors.

How to look on the outside also affects your performance.

In her book, “Big Magic”, author Elizabeth Gilbert says when she gets writer’s block, she heads to the bathroom.  She washes her hair, shaves her legs, exchanges her pj’s with nice clothes, applies lipstick and sprays perfume even though she rarely uses either and then gets back to writing. She explains it works every time. When she sits back at her desk she is able to write effortlessly.

It is easy to think, ‘I won’t bother today because no one will see me,”  but you will know!

In an interview, a popular radio presenter was asked what she did to prepare herself for her daily radio show. Besides things that you would expect, such as read through the show notes , she cleans her teeth. Even though she isn’t physically near the 1000’s of listeners tuning in to her show, she acts as if they were sitting right next to her.

Your physical appearance and how you feel about yourself are very much connected. It is much easier to take care of yourself  when you are feeling confident. However, why wait? If you make some upgrades to your physical appearance now, it will start  a nice ripple effect. You will look and feel sharper, people will sense that and respond to you differently. Your performance will improve, which will make you feel successful and feel inspired to make another physical upgrade.

You don’t have to give yourself a huge makeover all at once. That might feel stressful and hard to maintain. Instead, pick one action that will have the biggest impact on you. It could be a trip to the hairdresser like my friend, or a new habit of getting dressed every day even if no one will see you.  Then when you feel ready, pick your next upgrade.

Here are 3 articles that will help you with the logistical aspects of your physical appearance.

How to decide what to wear

The ADHD friendly way to do laundry

Create a Checklist to help you get ready in morning


What is your first physical upgrade going to be? Let me know in the comments below!


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  1. Yolande Carlse-Heunis says:

    I have a question, I have been working for about 14 years now and have always been fortunate enough to be allowed to wear what I feel good in. I might sound strange but I am strange and I have learnt to embrace it. My strange outfits that make me happy more productive and much more confident to be 100% of who I can be just so happens to be jeans and tops some t-shirts and some blouses with anything from ballet shoes to sneakers to DocMartins. I agree with your hair theory I have a very pale complexion and was born blond yet I always felt like I should have black hair, the day I coloured my hair was the last day of feeling icky having trouble finding clothes I was just me. Recently our company has decided on a dress code, not at all what I would normally wear. We now have to wear more formal clothes even though we are not customer facing. I am a wreck I can’t get stuff done I am very self-conscience I tug and pull at my clothes nothing feels right in the morning, I refuse to go anywhere but work in this “monkey suite” in short it’s just feels like I am in some other skin. I have had people that know the corporate wardrobe pick out some outfits and everything fits like it should and I receive complements yet I find my thoughts wondering in the middle of the day about what to wear tomorrow and overthinking what I have on today and and and

    To me underwear and perfume gets me in the lets do this and get this done work mood, even the prettiest underwear and most stunning perfume can’t help me forget this fake outer wear. I have been thinking I lost the plot until this entry in your blog. Could it be that it’s not about dressing up but rather dressing in what makes you feel pretty and confident ?

    • Hi Yolande, You definitely haven’t ‘lost the plot!’ You make a great point about dressing up vs dressing in what makes you feel pretty and confident. In the article, I was encouraging people to get dressed in clothes that will help them to look an feel their best.. in their style.
      One of my friends is a laywer and he has to wear a suit every day. He sees his suit as a uniform, just like police officers and nurse wear a uniform. I think it is a helpful mindset shift. Could you see your new work clothes like a uniform too?
      Its great that you are personalizing it as much a possible, also pay attention to the touch and feel of the fabrics and fit to your new clothes. ADDers are very sensitive to these things and that could be part of why you don’t like the new look. Whenever possible pick soft and looser fitting things. Then the minute you get home you can hang those clothes up and put on your usual fun clothes.

      • Yolande Carlse-Heunis says:

        Thanks, yes I suppose I am change resistant and need to make the mind shift to ” uniform”. I currently feel like Julia Roberts character in Pretty Women when she is all dressed up and feels like she couldhave spoken her mind better had she been confronted in her “own” clothes. Thinking of it as uniform helps bring the behavior I think should go with be dressed up down a peg.

      • Awesome! so glad the uniform mental shift is helpful Yolande.

  2. ALEX EMEH says:

    Truly I need to do much more to look good. Apart from dressing well, I need to feed well. Many a time I hardly eat especially breakfast and most times no good lunch, mainly snacking. I think it’s telling on my body. Also I need to buy more clothes and take time to dress better.

  3. Rod says:

    Back in the day (waaay back), the BBC Radio News Readers wore tuxedos. Management thought they actually sounded more formal and had more gravitas because of the way they were dressed.

  4. Sandra Bell says:

    Drink more water! Speak a mainly vegan diet (anti-inflammatory). Continue exercise such as yoga and swimming and pilates. Keep meditating. Keep getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep. See a medical esthetician. Continue therapy working towards emotional and mental well-being. These things should be a great start and foundational practice to looking my best!

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